Archive
Blending sparse acoustics and glistening synth, Brooklyn’s Snowmine make indie-rock music that evokes both the aching sentimentality and darling harmonies of Fleet Foxes, and the body moving tribal beats and electronics of Yeasayer. The five-piece — led by new-classical composer Grayson Sanders — knows how to assemble songs that are well-textured and emotional, but it’s their real knack for building upon strong pop melodies that makes their work so appealing.
Katie Dill is currently one half of the music project Mean Lady, but has also been performing and recording her own music for years. Influenced by artists that range from Ella Fitzgerald to The Beach Boys and Bob Marley, Katie has written and recorded hundreds of songs, often folky tunes played on a range of instruments such as piano, banjo, ukulele and omnichord. In this episode of BTR Live Studio, Katie shares a couple of new songs, as well as a solo version of Mean Lady’s “Far Away, played on piano, and discusses some of the inspiration behind her many songs.
Lost Bayou Ramblers got their musical start playing traditional Cajun music in their home state of Louisiana. Deciding that change and growth within the band was necessary led to the production of their newest album — Mammoth Waltz — which amps up the band and combines their traditional instrumentation and sound with recognizable rock n’ roll influences. In this episode of BTR Live Studio, Lost Bayou Ramblers share some Cajun history, new tunes and talk about the process of recording their latest album.
Citizens! is a new band on the French label, Kitsuné, comprised of five guys from London and produced by Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. Embracing pop in all its forms and experimenting with creating a new sound, the result is infectious, with a bit of glam attitude and more than a little funk mixed into their indie pop sound. The band played some songs and sat down with Maia to talk about their video for “True Romance,” and their rules for recording.
Project E.A.R. (East Asian Revolution) is a musical movement of bands and acts from South East Asia with the mission of giving Asian music exposure across the globe. Originally brought together for the 2008 MTV Asia Awards, it is a collaborative project with members of groups from five countries in the region, including Ahli Fiqir from Singapore, Pop Shuvit from Malaysia, Saint Loco from Indonesia, Thaitanium and Silksounds from Thailand, and Slapshock from the Philippines. With musical influences from metal to rock and pop music, the group’s sound changes from song to song and even verse to verse, as the players trade off songwriting and singing duties with ease. On their first ever trip to the US for the 2012 CMJ Music Marathon, the group dropped by our studio to talk about the project and to share some of the songs written for their upcoming record during a trip to Bali earlier this year.
BRAINSTORM is an experimental pop group from Portland, Oregon, who use memorable melodies, polyrhythmic singing, and shimmering guitar lines to build songs bound to lodge themselves in peoples’ heads. Everything the trio does is high energy, danceable, and simultaneously familiar and refreshingly new. The band chatted with Maia about how they blend their eclectic outsider music influences in an organic way, the mixtapes that brought them together, taking internet band friendships offline, and more. Bonus: bassist Dasha gets a new nickname!
This West Bend, Wisconsin, duo began making music when Jacquelyn Beaupre recorded some songs and asked Donivan Berube to help finish them up. Eventually, it turned into a fully collaborative project for the two who work, live, and play together — and boast that, between the two of them, they can play anything. There’s a natural, woodsy feeling in their music, especially on recordings, thanks to their unique recording techniques and honest, optimistic approach. They stopped by the studio to share some songs and talk about giving up the flute and finding it again, not knowing what they’re doing, and how the project got started.
Originally a minimalist noise pop duo, Bleeding Rainbow (formerly Reading Rainbow) are now a 4-piece rock band, capable of a fully trippy, fuzzed-out sonic assault. The Philadelphia band wears its 90s subculture inspiration proudly on its vintage t-shirt sleeve, evoking appropriately fuzzy shades of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Yo La Tengo, and more. The band sat down with Maia to chat about being caught stealing, how they got the crazy effects (intentional or otherwise) for a music video, and why it didn’t take a lawsuit to get them to change their name.
Modern Rivals are five friends, some of whom have been playing music together since middle school. The Brooklyn-based quintet blends carefully orchestrated guitars, keyboards, and loops with clean vocals full of “oohs” and “aahs,” taking cues from the likes of Local Natives and Animal Collective, to create an atmosphere of warm, lush tones. Currently at work on their first full length album, the band sat down with Maia to talk about growing up together and the benefits of crafting longer records.
Japanese drummer Yuko Araki is a veteran of such high profile projects as Cornelius, the Plastic Ono Band, and Cibo Matto. In MI-GU she is joined by her frequent collaborator, guitarist Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu, also of Cornelius and one of their joint projects, IF BY YES. Together, the duo craft engagingly minimalist and experimental pop songs built on the interplay of Yuko’s propulsive drumming and the unique sounds generated by Shimizu’s handmade effect pedals. In this interview, Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda helps out with translation as the band discusses writing songs, building pedals, and humor in music.
Cousins are a garage band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, that makes sweet n’ heavy, raucous pop music. Formed in 2009 by Aaron Mangle, the project’s lineup fluctuates with additional members Leigh Dotey and Pat Ryan. For this session, Aaron and Leigh performed as a duo before sitting down with Maia to talk about getting over stage fright, and sharing a bit about our neighbors to the way north — most notably that Halifax apparently has its own version of Brooklyn, just across the bridge. In the Spring of 2013, the band will release a new LP and a split EP with their band BFF Construction & Destruction.
Hailing from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, perhaps the most obvious trait of Rosco Bandana is their striking live energy. The songs are fast, the musicians are tight, and, most importantly, their blend of Americana and folk is tempered with a strong helping of Southern sweetness and a seeming desire to get a little rowdy. They are, after all, the product of teenage rebellion and its consequences, born out of principle songwriter Jason Sanford’s efforts to break out of his strict Christian upbringing and his subsequent discovery of indie rock. The band visited BTR Live Studio to play some songs and to sit down with Maia to talk a bit about how they found themselves winning the competition that landed them a record deal with Hard Rock Records.
Brooklyn indie folk-rock art collective Balthrop, Alabama, brings to mind the excitement and warmth of a party with all your family, friends, and neighbors in your childhood living room. Founded by Alabama-born songwriter-siblings Pascal and Lauren Balthrop, the “town” has a population somewhere around 10 at any given time, often including enough members of other notable NYC acts to make it a veritable supergroup, and always including live drawing by artist Michael Arthur. With their latest full length album, the tiny town of Balthrop gets electricity, and their familiar tales of love, dead people, and dead people in love are joined by the subjects of oil, brotherhood and death, happiness and woe.
Heliotropes is the musical vehicle of four Brooklyn women that hail from places as wildly divergent as West Virginia, New Jersey, and California. Begun in 2009, the band has been hard at work recording and releasing singles that showcase their fuzzed-out psych/shoegaze-inspired songs, full of dreamlike vocals and gut-pummeling riffs. Heliotropes land somewhere between Black Sabbath and Mazzy Star, which makes for a pretty perfect cocktail of musical intoxication.
Teeny Lieberson was playing in the indie-psych band Here We Go Magic when a break from the group led to the writing of a batch of songs that formed the groundwork for what would become TEEN. Joined by two of her sisters and a friend, the band plays eerie, swirling psych-flavored pop music with a heavy emphasis on lyrics and vocals. The quartet treated us to a stripped-down set in the studio and chatted with Maia about their history and, curiously enough, dingy Nova Scotia venues.
Originating in New Orleans and currently based half in Brooklyn and half in Providence, RI, Callers is a group with strong convictions and creative musicianship. Their latest, Reviver, is said to be “a statement on power, rhythm, beauty and language, and an exploration of inner vastness.” In the process of crafting the LP, Keith Souza and Seth Manchester went from collaborating in the studio to joining the band, adding more support to the already complex songwriting and orchestrations of Sara Lucas and Ryan Seaton. Not a band beholden to any particular genre, Callers often incorporate shades of Fleetwood Mac, Dirty Projectors, and all the art rock, motown, experimental punk, and world music in between.
The Bowery Riots are a 3 piece rock n roll band who take their name from the turn of the century gang The Bowery Boys and the 1849 Astor Riot. Devoted to early rhythm & blues and British invasion rock n’ roll, their self-imposed mission is to make honest, literate music that pays tribute to their city and — perhaps more importantly — keeps people moving.
Brooklyn-based electronic/psychedelic producer Erin Rioux (pronounced ree-yoo) is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist who blends organic instrumentation with custom samples and beats. More than just a dance music machine, Rioux explores the realm of audio/visual pop experimentation, drawing inspiration from the Berlin nightlife scene and his own background growing up in Detroit.
Beach Day come from a surreal place they call Hollyweird, Florida (actually Hollywood, but the nickname seems to fit). The retro aesthetic of their hometown seems to have left quite an impression on the trio, whose music embodies the same sort of sunny pop as girl groups of the 50’s and 60’s. Capturing as much of their live vibe in the studio as possible — both on their records and in this session — the band proves that, though their surroundings and inspiration may seem frozen in time, their music is very much alive.
Beat Radio is the perpetually-evolving project of Bellmore, Long Island’s Brian Sendrowitz, who’s been crafting hazy, literate, heartfelt pop songs under the name since 2005. In its current form as a duo (joined by a second Brian on drums), the band has been working on a fourth full-length album, Hard Times, Go!, with the additional help of a network of friends and collaborators. Inspired by nostalgia for an innocence that may or may not have ever been (mixtapes, sitcoms, pure pop music) and driven by a strong DIY ethic, the LP is an expansive, adventurous concept record that makes good on its promise to find a space that falls comfortably between Sendrowitz’s musical heroes: Bruce Springsteen and Robyn. Even BTR Live Studio’s host, Maia Macdonald, gets in on the fun, joining the band for a duet on vocals for the song “Stars Collided In Our Hearts” for this special session.
Lightning Love are an indie pop trio from Ypsilanti, Michigan. The band began with Leah Diehl’s solo demos of voice and piano, and was later fleshed out to a fuller sound with the help of her brother Aaron on drums and guitarist Ben Collins. Using simple pop structures as a basis for strong, confessional songs with a sweet, self-deprecating tone (sure, call it twee if you must) has worked well for the band, leading to extensive touring and growing national attention.
Eric Lindley is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer with a tendency towards sparseness and experimentation in his Careful project. An unconventional use of auto-tuned vocals over indie folk sets him apart from most dudes with guitars, and sets a strangely unsettling tone for his masterfully concocted, lovely songs.
Kris Gruen, currently based in Vermont, was born in New York City with music in his blood, thanks to his father, iconic rock photographer Bob Gruen. His first album, Lullaby School, dealt in the Bon Iver-esque territory of subdued whisper-folk, while the sophomore release, Part of it All, takes a broader, more electrified approach, largely thanks to new collaborations. Contributing musicians and friends include drummer Butch Norton (The Eels, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainwright), bassist Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing, Dixie Chicks), Nashville’s Jason Goforth on lapsteel, and drummer Nick Brown from The Dig.
Deidre — who also performs with the groups Savoir Adore and French Horn Rebellion — recently expanded her own project to become the band Deidre & The Dark. Like a noir-inspired New Wave film come to life, the group touches on the blues, gypsy music, surf rock, 60s a-go-go and more behind their femme fatale singer. As the group celebrates the release of their “Classic Girl/Don’t Blame Me Now” 7 inch, Deidre reveals some of the concept behind the project, explains how she creates characters, and shares what it’s like to grow up with an organist mom and a synth-obsessed dad.
A native of Blue Point, Long Island, Travis McKeveny grew up with a wealth of great musical inspiration from the likes of Van Morrison, John Hiatt, and Jackson Browne, thanks to his guitarist/singer-songwriter father. Only two years into his own music career, Travis crafts impressive songs comprised of unadorned voice and bare acoustic guitar. Preparing for the release of his debut album, Last Year’s Leaves, he stopped by for a session of BTR Live Studio.
Strongly influenced by her own military family background — including extensive traveling throughout the world — Michaela Anne today finds herself settled in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is quickly revealing itself to have a burgeoning music scene of its own. Leading what she calls her “not exclusively country, country band” and making a name for herself on the Americana circuit, she stopped by BTR Live Studio to play some new songs as she prepares for her next release.
The Aviation Orange is a Brooklyn-based quintet with significant praise and experience for a relatively young group. With dueling male-and-female vocals, the band approaches their indie synth-pop with startling musical precision, building a sound that references the past yet still sounds modern. Fresh off the July release of the digital album, However Wild, the group plans to head back into the studio this fall, and shares some of those new songs with us for the first time in this episode of BTR Live Studio.
Brooklyn duo Cultfever created a world of their own for the songs on their self-titled debut album. Drawing on elements of classic indie rock and pop, their genre-jumping style makes for a satisfying mix of dynamic story songs and unconventional soundscapes. Stopping by to chat with Maia for this episode of Live Studio, Cultfever — performing here as a four-piece — shares some songs and a little about the making of their moody music video for “Knewyouwell.”
Hailing from New Jersey, The Static Jacks are a poppy garage punk band that have been together since 2007. After the release of their first album, the group decided they needed to take a different approach to production and began recording in a converted storage unit in Jersey City. The resulting sophomore album is exactly what the band hoped to achieve — a sound that is, according to the band, “spontaneous but polished.” The guys stopped by the studio to chat with Maia about Spray Tan and play a few songs.
Shenandoah and the Night is a four piece ensemble from Brooklyn who, with their haunting melodies and attraction to minors keys, have been described as “moody pop” and “pop noir.” Currently preparing for the release of their second full length album, the group stopped by for a session of BTR Live Studio to discuss the making of their new record and the shift in their music as of late.
Katie Dill is currently one half of the music project Mean Lady, but has also been performing and recording her own music for years. Influenced by artists that range from Ella Fitzgerald to The Beach Boys and Bob Marley, Katie has written and recorded hundreds of songs, often folky tunes played on a range of instruments such as piano, banjo, ukulele and omnichord. In this episode of BTR Live Studio, Katie shares a couple of new songs, as well as a solo version of Mean Lady’s “Far Away, played on piano, and discusses some of the inspiration behind her many songs.
After a musical hiatus following the disbanding of DeYarmond Edison, Chris Porterfield is making music again with his new project, Field Report. Garnering attention from Billboard, Paste, and Pitchfork, the music of Field Report has been described as thoughtful, smart, and intimate. In this session of BTR Live Studio, we catch up with the band, on tour with Counting Crows, and hear a little about Porterfield’s journey from DeYarmond Edison until now.
Dusted consists of Brian Borcherdt (Holy Fuck) and Leon Taheny (Final Fantasy, Rituals, Bruce Peninsula). The duo plays to their strengths and longtime experience to overcome some of the usual difficulties of a two man band, producing a sound that is richly fleshed out. Their recently released album, Total Dust, is described by Brian as a sort of collage of songs that came together over time and in between touring. Dusted stopped by our studio to talk with Maia about their new album and share a few songs.
Performing as Cadence Weapon, Rollie Pemberton is known for his way with words — even spending two years as Poet Laureate for the City of Edmonton. Pemberton’s last two albums, Breaking Kayfabe and Afterparty Babies, were nominated for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize while his latest release, Hope In Dirt City, is an attempt to capture the artist’s newest musical phase while also paying homage to earlier forms of hip hop. The album combines several genres of music fluidly for what Pemberton considers his most mature album yet.
Along with the rising Afrobeat scene in NYC, the twelve piece ensemble Zongo Junction has gained notoriety in the city. Afrobeat, which could be described as a politically motivated combination of funk, jazz and Nigerian Yoruba music, is known for complex rhythms and high energy tunes. After extensive tour on the east and west coasts, Zongo Junction has built a reputation on their ability to get a crowd moving. The band stopped by our studio while preparing for their next tour.
FIDLAR (an acronym for “Fuck It Dog Life’s A Risk) is a group of Los Angeles party rockers with a devil may care attitude; their songs advocate a hedonistic lifestyle of indulgence in the important things — partying, sex and skating. Finishing up a recent tour with The Hives, FIDLAR was likened to the Replacements and Dead Kennedys by LA Weekly. The guys dropped by our studio to share some of their music and tales from the road.
Sydney Wayser is a NYC singer-songwriter with roots in both Los Angeles in Paris. She recently visited our studios to play songs from her latest album, Bell Choir Coast, and to discuss the project with Maia Macdonald.
On May 15th, Vancouver dark-dance band Mode Moderne celebrated the North American release of their new EP, Strange Bruises, on Little Organ Records. Centered around the music of Clint Lofkrantz, Felix Fung, and Philip Intile, Mode Moderne combines synths with chorusy, reverby guitars that instantly bring to mind some favorite moody pop songs from the 1980s. The band made their New York debut in early June, including a stop at our studios to record this exclusive live session.
Team Genius joins visits the studio for a session of BTR Live Studio and discusses and chats with Maia about their music.
Asthmatic Kitty recording artist Shannon Stephens returns with her new album, Pull It Together, produced with help from Grammy-winning engineer Kory Kruckenberg. The album highlights an evolution for Stephens, a wife and mother who has chosen to spend the greater part of the last decade out of the spotlight. She writes with a new worldview and explores the Seattle blues while staying true to her indie folk/rock roots. Pull It Together features collaborations with musicians Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan), James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion), Steve Moore (Laura Veirs), Bonnie Prince Billy, DM Stith, and Galen Disston.
The Spinto Band is a hardworking group of guys from Wilmington, Delaware, who make excellent rock music (of the off-kilter pop variety, a la Talking Heads), host parties and concerts at their own space (The Garden Center), and run their own label (Spintonic Recordings). While on a recent tour, they stopped by our studio for a session and a chat with Maia.
Artist info…
Atlanta band Bosco was formed around the musical vision of Savannah songwriter Brittany Bosco. Creating lush songs rooted in church music, verbed out guitars, 90s nostalgia, heavy percussion,and chill soul, Bosco pairs a strong design aesthetic and fashion sense with their evolving music. With the recent incorporation of synths into their sound, Bosco continues to redefine their output as collaborative musicians and artists.
As Lacrymosa, Caitlin Pasko, composes beautiful orchestral pop songs that build and weave a variety of textures into dreamy soundscapes. Adorned with sweeping string arrangements, delicate piano work and an angelic, soaring voice that rises and falls with exceptional control and ease, Pasko’s music is tender yet bursting with fervor — especially alongside her lyrical storytelling. Both her vocals and soft-spoken pop sensibilities call to mind Regina Spektor and Sharon Van Etten.
The folk-pop tinged music of Brooklyn singer-songwriter Kelli Scarr is pure and poignant, smooth and seductive, reminiscent at times of Neil Young or Gillian Welch. Scarr — who has toured and worked with Moby and been nominated for an Emmy for her soundtrack work on HBO’s In a Dream — wears her heart on her sleeve lyrically, and her cool and soothing vocals are especially soul-stirring.
Based out of Los Angeles, RACES (formerly Black Jesus) blends bits of psych-rock, indie-pop, and even a little country twang for music that’s one moment guitar-driven and rollicking, and the next brimming with intense emotion and poppy hooks. The wild, but charming songs on the band’s Frenchkiss Records debut, Year Of The Witch, are further highlighted by frontman Wade Ryff’s raspy-textured, yearning vocals.
Jesse Marchant, or JBM as he’s more commonly known in the music world, creates delicate, subdued and moving indie rock. Written mostly on an acoustic guitar, his songs are sparse, though never simplistic — he’s classically trained on the guitar and quick with his fingers — and overall the music often conveys a haunting, yet beautiful emotional quality. He’s shared the stage with well-known acts like St. Vincent and The Tallest Man On Earth.
One minute rife with warm and contagious dance-pop beats, the next minute boasting edgy rock riffs, Kodacrome’s songs are full of relentless energy and shimmery appeal. The trio’s knack for strong pop melodies make for airy synth-rock soundscapes, while frontwoman Elissa Pociask’s rich and raspy vocals have a seductive texture to them, reminiscent of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand.
Baltimore-based band Gary B & the Notions play loud and spunky indie-rock that’s full of bold, crunchy guitar riffs intertwined with catchy, power-pop melodies. Made up of Gary Lee Barrett, Jr., Kristofor Heath, Rick Bowman and Bryan Elliott, the four-piece has shared the stage with the likes of Joan Jett, Sufjan Stevens and Of Montreal. Their latest record, How Do We Explode, was recorded by friend and fellow musician J Mendicino of Pretty & Nice.
Blurring the lines between genres, Emily Wells is a New York-based musician who channels hip-hop, synth rock, pop and even classical music. Her songs are at once sentimental, hypnotizing and electrifying. Though she’s been dubbed a hybrid of Nina Simone, Biggie Smalls and Bob Dylan, on stage Wells offers her own uniquely impressive one-woman show, playing a number of instruments and looping them live throughout her entire set. Here she performs a brand new song called “Come To Me.”
This Is The Kit is the project of English-born singer-songwriter Kate Sables. Based out of Paris and often accompanied by longtime collaborator Jesse Vernon, she plays folk-rock that is sparse, stripped-down, and marked by a captivatingly tender and calm ambiance. Sables has been lauded by artists like Sharon Van Etten, and she is currently signed to Brassland Records, the label co-founded by The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner.
Originally a duo featuring Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, Brooklyn’s Lucius now has four permanent members and performs with a rotating fifth. Their charming indie-pop borrows mostly from country and folk, but their songs vary in mood and style — some are quirky and frenetic (reminiscent of St. Vincent), while others are sparse and delicate (like Feist). Though they sing heartbreaking tales, it’s the powerful, yet tender, harmonies of Laessig and Wolfe that make the music especially poignant.
Marked by beautiful, lush orchestration and impassioned, whispery vocals, Ravens & Chimes’ indie rock is enthralling and emotionally compelling. The Brooklyn five-piece has opened for bands like Billy Bragg and Tim Fite, and their honest, heart-on-the-sleeve songs — three of which have been featured on MTV’s Skins — have earned praise from musical icons Leonard Cohen and Jeff Mangum. Just recently, they were listed as one of The L Magazine’s “8 Bands You Need To Hear.”
Berlin-based trio Fenster play charming chamber-pop. Despite eerie stories of graveyards and ghosts, their songs are minimalistic and calming, marked by their sparse, soft-spoken tenderness. The band also has its fair share of sweeping, climactic moments often accentuated by an assortment of sounds like rattling tambourines and emphatic handclaps. Here, they even use our studios’ sprinklers as an instrument.
Based out of Portland, Oregon, Ramona Falls is the experimental indie-rock project of former Menomena member Brent Knopf. His debut album, Intuit, was released in 2009 and featured over 30 various musicians and friends, such as Benjamin Weikel (The Helio Sequence) and Janet Weiss (Wild Flag, Sleater Kinney). Here, the band performs “Brevony,” a new, unpredictably explosive and crunchy track from the forthcoming release, Prophet.
Bird Courage is a folk-rock duo who perform their moving, mellow folk-rock in subway stations all over New York City. The pair — made up of New Zealand artist Samuel Saffery and Bushwick musician Erik Meier — teamed up after originally competing for busking spots. Together they create acoustic music that’s full of raw emotion, especially with the group’s fragile, almost hushed, vocals.
Originally from Cambridge, Mass., You Won’t mix lo-fi rock and stripped-down folk. Beneath the layers of raw distortion, their songs are strewn with sincere lyrics and endearing twangy-pop melodies. The band — made up of Josh Arnoudse, Raky Sastri, Tony Leva — released their debut full-length, Skeptic Goodbye, earlier this year.
Blending sparse acoustics and glistening synth, Brooklyn’s Snowmine make indie-rock music that evokes both the aching sentimentality and darling harmonies of Fleet Foxes, and the body moving tribal beats and electronics of Yeasayer. The five-piece — led by new-classical composer Grayson Sanders — knows how to assemble songs that are well-textured and emotional, but it’s their real knack for building upon strong pop melodies that makes their work so appealing.
Tall Ships are a three-piece from Brighton, UK, whose intricate music twists and turns to become serpentine-like math rock. Made up of Ric Phethean, Jamie Bush and Matt Parker, the band’s epic, layered sound has drawn comparisons to Foals and Battles, and they’ve shared the stage with bands like Los Campesinos! and We Are Scientists.
Brooklyn’s Emanuel and the Fear — a large eclectic ensemble sometimes boasting as many as 11 members — play a genre-bending style of orchestral-pop. Led by fiery frontman Emanuel Ayvas, the band’s poetic, yet bold, songs infuse classical music à la Beethoven, chamber-folk à la Arcade Fire, and straightforward intense rock.
San Diego five-piece Cuckoo Chaos create intricately layered indie-pop that’s peppered with surf rock and Afropop. Their songs, full of sweet harmonies and jangly guitars, have moments of unpredictable creativity and instant catchiness. Live, the band — made up of Jackson Milgaten, Scott Wheeler, Dave Mead, Jeremy Scott, and Craig Barclift — show not only their energy, but also the technical skill and precision of their music. Here they perform four brand new, previously unreleased songs off their forthcoming album.
Comprised of Greg Walters and Cason Kelly, Tiny Victories experiment with countless sounds and samples to create exhilarating electronic music that combines chillwave and dream-pop. The Brooklyn-based duo make their futuristic pop anthems come to life with waves of noise that throb, buzz, and ripple with real sonic power. Walters’ deep, Joy Division-like vocals also give the songs an added gritty texture.
Formerly a backup singer for Lindsay Lohan and the Spice Girls’ Emma Bunton, Nefatari Cooper has taken her dancehall pop music to center stage. Simply known as Nefatari — a name inspired by the Egyptian queen Nefertiti — her newest single “Day U Mess Up,” is a sensual, yet bold and cheeky anthem for women. Her Jamaican roots also shine throughout the song, with all its pulsing and hypnotic beats.
Noah and the MegaFauna is an eccentric ensemble that sounds like a jazz-infused version of Devotchka. Influenced by “gypsy jazz” pioneer Django Reinhardt, the Los Angeles-based band features sharp blaring horns, big swinging rhythm guitar, frontman Noah Lit’s chilling, pained vocals, and an overall eerie and brooding, yet carnival-esque vibe. Their concept album, Anthems For A Stateless Nation, is a modern-day take on the Noah’s Ark story.
Channeling Queen, Of Montreal, and the Fiery Furnaces, multi-instrumentalist Bryan Scary makes psychedelic-pop that’s overflowing with dramatic, whimsical and swooping hooks. The inventive and somewhat oddball Brooklyn musician created Daffy’s Elixir — a new, double disc conceptual album set entirely in the wild, wild west — thanks in part to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $16,000. Featured song: “Ballroom Kid”
Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon’s quirky, yet charming folk-pop has landed her on tour dates with St. Vincent, performances at the Glastonbury and Latitude festivals, and even a spot on Gruff Rhys’ (of Super Furry Animals) record label. Her haunting lyrics (many inspired by past pet death experiences) stand in contrast to her airy Nico-like vocals and minimalistic music, a combination that makes for beautifully compelling and intriguing songs. Featured song: “Fold The Cloth”
Though it’s been a few years since their last album, London-based Little Barrie are back with a new and improved lineup. Featuring guitarist and vocalist Barrie Cadogan, bassist Lewis Wharton and drummer Virgil Howe (who also happens to be the son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe), the trio fuses garage rock and 60s funk. Their gritty, yet soulful music packs the kind of spunky swagger that calls to mind classic rock n’ roll and recent acts like The Strokes and The White Stripes. Featured song: “Tip It Over”
Diane Cluck is an anti-folk troubadour who has been making music for over a decade, influencing artists such as Sharon Van Etten and Johnny Flynn. Her songs — though sparse and usually only featuring an acoustic guitar — carry emotional weight felt through her dark and witty lyrics, powerfully haunting and textured voice, and brilliant and complex plucking. Starting in March, she will embark on a “Song-of-the-Week” project, releasing up to 24 new songs over a six-month period.
Indie pop band Summer Camp is made up of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey. Hailing from England, the duo write dark and conflicted tales of love and longing, while their music is shrouded in nostalgia, sounding as though it’s of another time. The catchy, lo-fi tunes, like “Better Off Without You” and “Brian Krakow,” draw inspiration from playful 60s girl groups and yet simultaneously seem perfect for any 80s movie soundtrack (or an episode of My So-Called Life). Here they perform a special acoustic set for BTR Live Studio.
Though they’re from Brooklyn, Country Mice’s psychedelia-meets-Americana makes them sound like they could be from the bluesy South or rootsy Midwest. Frontman Jason Rueger (who is actually originally from a little Kansas town called Beattie) is joined by guitarist Ben Bullington, bassist Mike Feldman and drummer Kurt Kuehn, and, together, the quartet’s blend of twangy folk and howling lo-fi make for a charming and compelling alt-country vibe.
Brooklyn trio Pearl and the Beard’s strain of heartwarming and catchy indie-folk is packed full of darling choruses, heart-on-the-sleeve lyricism, and the robust orchestration of glockenspiel, accordion and cello. Jocelyn Mackenzie, Jeremy Styles and Emily Hope Price harmonize exceptionally and charmingly well, but the three-piece also know how to be crafty and whimsical — many of their songs have lively twists scattered between all the sweet melodies.
Born in Libya to Pakistani parents, Roach Killa creates intoxicating, beat-heavy music that combines elements of reggae, hip-hop, and Bhangra. Though he currently lives in Canada, he’s toured Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and his hypnotic dance-floor anthems have garnered international acclaim — his single “Yaara Dildara” once ranked #1 on the BBC Asian Network Music Chart, while another called “Bomp” topped Italian Dance Charts. He was also featured on a dancehall compilation album alongside Sean Paul and Beenie Man.
Brooklyn’s Field Mouse play shimmery shoegaze that’s both graceful and completely addictive. Since their 2010 debut, You Are Here, the band — consisting of singer/guitarist Rachel Browne, guitarist Andrew Frutal, drummer Geoff Lewit and, more recently, new bassist Danielle DePalma — has further refined their pop sensibilities. Featuring lush, pretty arrangements and Browne’s delicate vocals, the songs bloom into dreamy soundscapes and flow smoothly from start to finish.
Low Roar is Ryan Karazija, former singer of West Coast band Audrye Sessions. Originally from San Francisco, he moved to Reykjavik, Iceland, and recorded his first full-length under the new moniker. The album’s beautiful and ambient indie-folk has a haunting chilliness that seems borrowed from the frigid, isolated surroundings, while Karazija’s voice, eerily similar to Thom Yorke’s, is yearning and vulnerable. The songs are simple — adorned only with bells, accordions and occasional electronic bits — yet filled with emotional depth.
New York-based Guards is led by long-haired California crooner Richie James Follin (brother of Madeline Follin from Cults). The band — which also includes Loren Ted Humphrey, John Fredericks and Kaylie Church — produces charming, retro lo-fi pop that calls to mind the sweet vocal harmonies and cheery melodies of classic Doo-wop and 60s girl groups. Their songs are chock full of hearty organ chords, dark lyricism, fuzzy reverb and rollicking choruses, and even feature cameos by Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek and MGMT’s James Richardson.
Ryan Lott — the man behind Son Lux — marries lush orchestral arrangements with glitchy blips and bleeps, making for rich and lovely electro-pop. He created his second album, We Are Rising, in response to NPR’s All Song’s Considered RPM Challenge, a test that asks musicians to put together an entire album in February, the shortest month of the year. He succeeded with the help of members of My Brightest Diamond, The Antlers and Midlake. Here, Lott performs in a more stripped-down, intimate style, spotlighting his quivering, pained vocals and sad, haunting lyrics.
Brooklyn’s Spanish Prisoners play swirling, multi-layered indie rock full of airy, glowing pop melodies tangled up in fuzzy, trembling reverb. The four-piece — made up of Leo Maymind, Mike DiSanto, James Higgs, and Amberly Hungerford — have taken their dreamy psychedelic music on the road with the likes of Foals, The Rosebuds, and John Vanderslice. Gold Fools, their self-released record, was one of NPR’s “Five Best Bandcamp Albums of 2011.”
Hailing from Wales, Los Campesinos! play wild indie-pop that’s clever, catchy, and overflowing with fiery, jarring punk-infused moments. Though the seven-piece has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years, the band’s nurtured a tight, sunny-meets-rowdy sound — inspiring everything from joyous head-bobbing to adrenalized raised fists. Underneath the energetic, sweet melodies are tales of heartache. Here that vulnerability especially shows, as they perform stripped-down versions of songs off their latest album, Hello Sadness.
Hailing from Stockholm, Serenades features Shout Out Louds vocalist/guitarist Adam Olenius and Laasko frontman Markus Krunegard. Together the duo create gorgeous synth-pop packed with sugar-coated melodies, impressive harmonies and anthemic choruses. Formed just last year, the Swedish group’s already signed to Cherrytree Records — an imprint of Interscope, headed by famous Lady Gaga A&R honcho Martin Kierszenbaum — and has a pleasingly polished, radio-friendly sound.
While Hurricane Irene blasted up the East Coast in September, Magnetic Island — formerly known as Renminbi — were holed away in Burlington, VT, and their hometown of Brooklyn working on their debut full-length album. The resulting songs sound a lot like that ferocious, but unpredictable storm: dark, brooding, and mysterious.
Born in England as Shahanara Taj, 18-year-old Rani Taj has quickly risen to become one of the most popular female dhol players after her version of Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” became a YouTube viral hit. The dhol — a double-headed drum that’s beaten with two wooden sticks and is popularly used in Punjabi Bhangra music — has historically been played by men. But Taj, having learned the dhol from experts Harjit Singh of Azaad Dhol and the Dhol Blasters, has broken this tradition. Here she performs and explains how she creates the tantalizingly hypnotic beats.

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